Trump and the Triumphant Trolls. What’s Their Secret?

The alt-right and the over-controlling left both played a part in this disaster, and both used the issue of Islam for their own purposes.

Photo Illustration by Lyne Lucien/The Daily Beast

LONDON—How did internet trolls—the kind who lurk under the line on comments sections—come to hijack modern political discourse? How is it that they not only tapped into populist rage, but have led the storming of the White House under President-elect Donald Trump?

By now you’ve probably seen a fair amount about what’s called the alt-right, as these characters call themselves. But their gains could not have been so great or come so quickly without what we might call the ctrl-left, or without the real problem of theocratic Islamism cynically exploited by both for their own ends.

These days it is common to see analogies between this new right movement and old fascism and Nazism—indeed, some flaunt those connections—but one of movement’s greatest loyalties is to neologism.

The alt-right found multiple ways to turbo-boost Trump’s campaign. Sending their mascot Pepe the Frog viral, they grew out of websites like 4chan, the Right Stuff, and American Renaissance.

The term alt-right was popularized by white nationalist Richard Spencer, founder of Alternative Right and Taki Magazine. The movement rose to political significance through the 2014 Gamergate controversy—a fierce clash that arose between video gamers and some critics, when gaming was put under the lens of progressive cultural criticism. Ann Coulter’s book Adios, America! The Left’s Plan to Turn Our Country Into a Third World Hellhole has become a key text, directly influencing Trump’s views on immigration.

Gay masculinists such as Jack Donovan, who edited Alternative Right’s gender articles, were also key forerunners.

Feeling betrayed by the economic globalization free-for-all of establishment Republicans, natural conservatives who prefer homogeneity over diversity migrated, too, to the alt-right.

Many, like libertarian PayPal founder Peter Thiel, who no longer believes that freedom and democracy are compatible, advocate that the U.S. should be run like a large company with a CEO at its head.

Much of this is influenced by what’s called Neoreaction (NRx) thought, also known as the Dark Enlightenment: less democracy, a large government, run by a strongman figure. Mussolini, anyone?

Drawing on currents like the new European far-right, Richard Spencer uses the term “identitarian” to describe white ethno-nationalism, a “homeland for all white people, all European people.” He has said, “‘ethnic-cleansing’ has been associated with civil war and mass murder (understandably so). But this need not be the case. 1919 is a real example of successful ethnic redistribution… but done peacefully.” His Taki Magazine and Alternative Right websites regularly ponder aloud over “Jewish power and influence.”

The use of the (((triple parentheses))) or “echoes” to identify and target Jews online has been a particularly dark feature of alt-right activism that originated on The Right Stuff. One group of bloggers became obsessed with the notion of scientific race differences.

Many alt-righters would prefer to think that an outright neo-Nazi element of their thought is merely left-wing scare-mongering, but a militant neo-Nazi faction called “1488” does exist as part of this movement and is openly planning racial wars for all to see, on sites like Stormfront.

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The alt-right clearly hates the left, but the movement is also a rebellion against traditional conservatives. Labeling them as cuckservatives, they save much of their venom for attacking this enemy within, who they believe has capitulated to the “globalist” establishment consensus.

The website Breitbart is strongly associated with this movement. Its Executive Chairman Steve Bannon, now Trump’s White House chief of strategy, proudly boasted that his outlet was a “platform for the alt-right.” But Richard Spencer considers Breitbart “alt-right lite.”

Although its various factions acted in concert to support Trump, the alt-right is not a cohesive organization nor a coherent ideology. It is a loose, internally conflicted phenomenon united only by what it hates. Unlike traditional conservatives it has declared open war on the establishment—the Cathedral. Culture must be taken back from the Social Justice Warriors—SJWs, and the normal people—normies, who currently dominate it.

This includes fighting traditional political institutions, mainstream media, elitist academia, and a total rejection of progressive ideas around gender, sexuality, race, and immigration. These social injustice warriors, as it were, believe that the left has mobilized women, LGBT people, blacks, and other non-white, non-straight, non-males to unleash outright hatred on white men specifically, and on whites generally.

As with all ideological reactions, it builds a massive wall of rhetoric on a few grains of fact.

The left progressively tried to shut down what it considered incorrect thinking. Thus Muslims were encouraged to cast themselves only and perpetually as victims, patronizingly assumed to have no independent agency. Whites, on the other hand, were cast as perpetual aggressors.

Anyone who dared question whether immigration stances such as Angela Merkel’s infamous “open door policy” were indeed wise or even safe was derided as heartless. As “polite society” took to labeling anyone who questioned this “globalist” consensus as racist or Islamophobic, many of the disillusioned turned to the rebellion of their day: They waged war against political correctness.

The alt-right upended the left’s moralizing. Political correctness was ridiculed by deploying racist and misogynist language for shock value against a stifling culture that came to value collective identities over individual humanity. They derisively dub this “cultural Marxism.” Thus, the alt-right relish being shouted down with overused terms such as “racist,” “homophobic,” and “sexist.”

Rather like the shrill Ms. Umbridge in the Harry Potter books, the ctrl-left’s desire to control and command what people should say, how people should think, and most frustratingly of all, how people should feel, has been its great downfall.

The anomalies became most striking in attempts to describe or address Muslim communities. The sacred Western value of free speech lost out when leftists pandered to Muslim blasphemy codes. The inability to concede even an inch to the blindingly obvious fact that Islam today has something—not everything and not nothing, but something—to do with jihadist terrorism, the ctrl-left became as post-factual as it claimed the right was.

Progressive liberalism has fallen—indeed been beaten—into a coma. But it was obvious this would happen. This is why the alt-right grew so quickly, almost as if from nowhere.

Rather like the Arab Uprisings that very few people saw coming, here was a revolt long stewing, and primed to suddenly boil over.

For years I have been warning that if the left did not cease infantilizing Muslims, talking down at white working classes, denigrating men, and stifling free speech, a dangerous right wing backlash—a whitelash—would hijack these causes, and we liberals would lose out.

If you keep telling people they are bigots for questioning your tactics, eventually they will reject your entire strategy. Well, that’s exactly what’s happened now. John Maynard Keynes was right when he said that in the long run the market may correct itself, but in the long run we’re all dead. Unchecked diversity through globalization can only take us so far.

A solution would be for liberals to reject the diktats of the ctrl-left, and return to universal progressive liberalism: a genuine, skeptical, inclusive, scientific liberalism that views people as people, for the content of their character and not for the color of their skin (yes, remember that?). Only a “ctrl-left, alt-right, delete” can reset and reboot the populist travesty that has beset this very unsettling year of 2016.